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Saturday, September 10, 2005  

The water isn't the only thing stinking in New Orleans now.  Let the Carpetbagging begin .... See "Firms with Bush ties snag Katrina deals" over at Reuters.[1]

But wait—there's plenty more outrage where that came from! Get thee over to for their report on Blackwater mercenaries now patrolling New Orleans:

New Orleans - Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.[2]

1.  The story is also available today at
2.  Read the full story, "Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans," at, September 10, 2005.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 4:15 PM |

Thursday, September 08, 2005  

Lords, flies, and carpetbaggers.  There are going to be many incredible, horrifying stories about the atavism of authority in New Orleans during the response to Hurricane Katrina. Here is one such tale from two California paramedics, in New Orleans for an EMS conference, who lived through the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort, which they call "callous, inept, and racist." Read their bitter account at (also here).

When such stories begin to lose their luster and we can no longer look at each other without shame, be assured that there will be fresh stories to replace them—stories involving the new Carpetbaggers, as they spend on themselves the $62.3 billion approved by Congress this week for rescue and reconstruction in this latter-day South.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 10:55 PM |

Wednesday, September 07, 2005  

No reporters allowed.  Kudos to Daily Kos and Democracy Now! for alerting us to the drowning of the First Amendment in New Orleans:

  1. No Accountability: Bush Locks Press Out of NOLA
    September 7th, 2005. We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning their TV trucks around.

  2. US agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead
    NEW ORLEANS, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The US government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.

    An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

    "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.

    The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of US soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.

    The White House is under fire for its handling of the relief effort, which many officials have charged was slow andbureaucraticc, contributing to the death and mayhem in New Orleans after the storm struck on Aug. 29.

  3. New Orleans Police Accused of Beating/Detaining Reporters
    Reporters Without Borders has issued a warning about police violence against journalists working in New Orleans. According to the group, on Sept. 1 police threatened a reporter and photographer from the Toronto Daily Star at gunpoint because they were seen covering a clash between police and individuals identified by police as looters. When police realized the photographer had snapped photos, they threw him to the ground, grabbed his cameras and removed the memory cards containing about 350 photographs. His press card was also torn from him. When the photographer asked for his photographs back, police officers threatened to hit him. Police also detained a photographer from the New Orleans-based Times Picayune after he was seen covering a shoot-out involving the police. Police smashed all of his equipment on the ground. [Reporters Without Borders.]

For good or ill, an enlightened press is critical to knowledge of what is happening in the New Orleans area, especially at a time when the Busheviks hold a vested interest in having us believe something totally different.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 10:35 PM |

Monday, September 05, 2005  

After the Ride Ticket.  The following small piece by CNN's Drew Griffin in New Orleans says far more about the hidden poor in America than any longer media exposé could ever do:

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 8:30 PM |

Sunday, September 04, 2005  

Left behind in the city that care forgot.  The ozone hole over Antarctica is now as big as Europe,[1] there were 37 million people living in poverty in 2004,[2] and I thank the Father that he watched over my children as they escaped the fury of Katrina and the resolute indifference of those we Americans entrusted with the safekeeping of the indigent, ailing, and suffering citizens who were left behind in New Orleans.

My oldest daughter A., with my two grandchildren, including new baby Rocky, all evacuated to stay with her mother in the hospital in the Mandeville area on Lake Pontchartrain's Northshore as Katrina landed on the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane. They stayed there through the hurricane, with diesel-generated electricity but with water and toilets, until Tuesday: my son-in-law drove his 18-wheel truck from Florida and picked them up at about midnight and they all drove to Houston, TX, to stay with friends there. The 17th Street Canal levee broke and threatened to flood their apartment in the Fat City district in Metairie, so they will come back for their belongings when the flooding subsides and the pumps can be restored and the streets are safe to travel. In the meantime, my number one son, E., had gone to stay with a buddy in Hammond, 30 miles to the west, but came back to Mandeville to check on things and to say that he was going to Baton Rouge, where at least he could find electricity and water and maybe air-conditioning, too. Gasoline was hard to get—not because of cost but because of the lack of electricity. The hospital is unable to keep refugees there indefinitely, so the healthy lodgers are being asked to find other places to go. I think their mother, a nurse, is going to stay at the hospital in Mandeville until electricity is restored to the area; her house in Abita Springs is intact, but its water supply is run by an electric pump. The Northshore has a lot of trees down and some houses are damaged, but it's the lack of electricity that seems to be the biggest problem. E. called me at 2:15 in the morning on Wednesday and I was so relieved to hear from him. Cell phone service to the area has not been working. I still can't call anyone at either 985 or 504 exchanges. They can call out, but calling in is a problem because of downed cell towers, or whatever. The only working cell phones seem to be Verizon® phones, and that's how E. was able to get in touch with me.

So my family in the hurricane zone are okay, although New Orleans and Metairie are torrid disasters. Judging by the flooded expanse, at least as seen in the AP's satellite imagery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it will surely be more than a month before land is restored. Right now there's no electricity, no clean water, the sewer lines are all backing up, spilling sh*t into the streets, and the dead have not been counted.

My number two son, K., emailed me to say that he was out of Kuwait and now stationed in FOB Marez (Forward Operating Base Marez) at the Mosul Airport in Iraq. He's been there for three days and the soldiers he and his crew were replacing said that they have not been bombed since last December, when "some guy did a suicide bomb."[3] I know he means well, but I should be relieved by such news?

What I do know is that it will be a long while before I can stand to listen to any politician say anything about how the emergency in New Orleans was handled, why it was a good thing that they let the levee system there sink, why it was really okay that 40% of the National Guard was in Iraq with needed equipment, etc. Let them eat money now, they now say. Life is good again. They will all be speaking and acting only for themselves.

Watching the Bush administration's clueless incompetence humiliate us before the entire world was itself unbearable, but seeing the president's indifference to the suffering is still very hard to take. What he did during the unfolding of Katrina's assault was really a replica of his behavior during the 9/11 Twin Towers terror, so we—rather I—should not be surprised by the hardness of the man's small heart.[4]

1.  AFP, Discovery News, August 31, 2005.
2.  This is about a 13 percent increase over the previous year. See BBC News, August 30, 2005.
3.  That would be the December 21, 2004 suicide bombing at the mess hall in Mosul. The bomber, who killed 14 US soldiers and four contractors in his suicide attack, entered the base wearing an Iraqi Army uniform. See the recent news story in Stars & Stripes, August 20, 2005.
4.  To begin with, there's his shameful delay in doing anything as Commander in Chief while the 9/11 terror unfolds. On this, if you can stand it, see the timeline essay at the Center for Cooperative Research. The Memory Hole has the video footage showing President Bush sitting in a Florida classroom for several minutes after he was told that the second Twin Tower had been hit and that America was being attacked. Those who've seen Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 will remember their discomfort as they watch the president sitting dispassionately, listening to school children read aloud even after Chief of Staff Andrew Card came over and said to the president: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." And then there is a repeat of this as the president continued his vacation while Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Not only did he continue his vacation, but he stayed on his regular speaking and golf-playing schedule, spending Monday and Tuesday in California, Arizona, and Texas to promote his Medicare drug benefit plan and praise his war in Iraq, before returning to Washington on Wednesday. Being president is "hard work," he says. Perhaps that's why he goes to bed at 9:00 every night and has taken more vacation time than any other president in the history of the United States (on this matter see the article at the History News Network).

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 1:25 AM |
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